7 ways you can smash public speaking, according to an Australian newsreading legend

George Donikian. Picture: Supplied

Public speaking is undeniably a skill that if mastered, can put you several steps ahead of the bunch.

Many people hate the thought of addressing a group, so much so they don’t even want to learn how.

George Donikian says it doesn’t have to be that way, and given he’s spent a large part of his working career in front of hundreds of thousands of people hanging on his every word, he should know.

The legendary former news reader for SBS World News, the Nine Network and Ten News is now offering high level executives media training with video company Media Services Australia.

And right now, he was happy to share some of his secrets with Business Insider readers. Here’s how to speak like George Donikian:

Know what you’re going to say

Whether it’s a pitch or a presentation, you need to have a real understanding of what you are going to say. Once you know what you’re talking about, you can impart that on an audience.

If you are unsure, then it will sound unsure when you speak, and you will be denied the opportunity to get your message across.

So first of all, you need to know what you are going to say. And not just know it, but you have to have a real belief that it is as you say it is. And you’ve got to say it with energy.

Don’t just think what you’re going to say; know what you’re going to say.

Talk to everyone, not just someone

There are very subtle shifts of engagement in your audience depending on how you approach it. This comes with practice and it comes with maturity.

Something that I have always done is talk across the whole audience, not just at one person. The very simple reason for that is that for every message you have, it affects different people in different ways.

It’s like the frequency on a radio dial; twist it slightly, and it’s a whole new station. So when you talk to them, talk to the whole audience, because that is a sign that you’ve put thought into it, and ensures that everyone is engaged with what you are saying.

Body language matters

This is something that everyone does all the time, but few people really understand the impact of your body language and your approach to a conversation or a presentation.

When I’m leaning back, I have no posture, no form and no real buy-in to the conversation – and your audience will reflect that. They can see that you are not engaged.

Move forward slightly and I now have total engagement. The change is huge – and immediate. ‘Talk to me, I’m in this conversation, and I want to talk and engage with you.’

You can have four or five different postures, but just remember that they are five very different things and there will be five different interpretations.

All that said, one position I don’t believe in is sitting at the desk with hands folded. You see people do this a lot on camera. You’re not pontificating, not preaching from the bible, you’re supposed to be broadcasting – so just do it.

Know your audience

Different people require different pitches. If I’m talking to millennials, so for example 20-year-olds, you need to talk in their language, don’t speak in yours.

And likewise, if you are talking to a baby boomer, you need to understand who they are, why they are there and what drives them.

It is pointless talking about subject matter that will not interest your audience, unless they have committed to buying into the conversation.

Realise your potential

Let’s say a professional stylist comes into your home and dresses your table for a party. And you look down at it and it looks spectacular. You think, ‘Could I have done that?’ And you tell yourself the answer is no.

But the answer is actually yes. I remind people about all these things, I make them realise yes, they can do it, and I bring them to the party, to see whether they can juggle.

Confidence is key

Confidence and belief. They’re the secrets. You’ve got to know and feel that what your offering has agency, has potency, a life cycle, a degree of substance. It’s got to have something for people to want to get involved in, to spend their hard-earned money on.

There has to be an incentive. For people to see an opportunity they have to believe it, and only you can portray that and get that across.

It’s up to you to make it as strong as possible. If you don’t have that, or you half-arse it, you’re only going to get half the result, or worse.

Wear good clothes – it matters more than you think

What you wear is absolutely vital. Depending on what you wear, what you are saying will sound different. If you’re wearing a dinner suit, your words will sound fully formed, you sound professional.

That simply will not come across in your speech if you’re wearing shorts and a T-shirt and thongs.

Even on a medium like radio, dress to the nines. Not only will it make you look good in front of the eyes around you, but it will shape your voice and make you sound more assured and confident to the listeners who can’t see you – but they can tell you mean business.

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